Getting to Know: Su Escuela Language Academy
SELA is the first and only full-immersion Spanish language academy in Massachusetts, preparing English-speaking children to excel linguistically, academically, and socially in our global society through instruction in a second and third language.
SELA first opened its doors in January 2004, with one student in an After-School Enrichment program, and now they are celebrating their 15th anniversary with nearly 200 students at the school!
TSSM was fortunate enough to learn more about the program. “Meet” SELA!
◇ Can you share a bit about the school’s philosophy?
Our vision and mission is to give our students an education that is a blend of academics, emotional intelligence and passionate teachers so that they can become life-long learners, global citizens, and passionate leaders.
To fulfill this mission, we have created a cumulative curriculum, where children reach a new milestone and continually build on and reinforce what they’ve already learned. It is designed by age and skill level, so each year the child will be challenged by the curriculum and engaged in a way that will make him to want to learn. SELA does not just teach children a second or third language, we do not just prepare children academically – we build confidence, character, and appreciation for other cultures.
◇ How old does a child have to be in order to attend?
SELA offers classes for children of all ages. Our School of Early Education offers programs for children age 3 months to age 5 and includes both our preschool and Junior K (Kindergarten preparatory) program. The International Private School is an elementary school and begins in Kindergarten and goes through grade 5.
◇ Tell us about the location/campus.
SELA is conveniently located in beautiful, 20,000 square foot building in Hingham, right across from the Shipyard. The address of the school is 75 Sgt William B Terry Drive in Hingham. Our school is centrally located to both the T and the Commuter Boat.
◇ What do current families say their favorite thing about SELA is?
Our current families love our teachers and our commitment to building and delivering a challenging, meaningful, fun curriculum. Our teachers are loving, nurturing and full of energy. They truly take the time to get to know each child and connect with them on an individual level. Our curriculum prepares children not only academically, but also socially to be successful at SELA and beyond. Our parents appreciate the focus we put on values (we identify a new value to explore and ‘practice’ each month) and how these values contribute to the socio-emotional development of the children.
◇ What is the most common asked question during the open houses?
The most common question we get during Open House is: “Will my child feel lost, or uncomfortable because they cannot understand the language?” The answer is no! Students are experiencing the language in a fun way, through song, repetition, hands-on activity, and play. Children do not think of the Spanish as a new language, they think of it as another way to say words they already know!
◇ What is the biggest misconception about the school?
The biggest misconception about SELA is that students who attend already speak Spanish at home. Actually… 90% of our families speak English as their primary language at home. Our curriculum is designed for English-speaking children to excel at a second language and there is no expectation of prior language exposure.
◇ What are the benefits of teaching a child a second language early on?
Full immersion is the best way to master a new skill. Full language immersion usually meant leaving the country to master the language. The idea behind SELA was to bring native speaking teachers to the students; to immerse students in language with teachers from around the world. Children who learn another language before age five use the same part of the brain to acquire that second language that they use to learn their primary language. Research shows that learning a second language boosts problem-solving, critical-thinking, and listening skills, in addition to improving memory, concentration, and the ability to multitask. Additionally, children who are exposed early to other languages display more positive attitudes to the cultures associated with those languages. The experience of learning a language introduces them to the world in ways they might otherwise have not experienced.
◇ What does a typical day at SELA look like?
In the Early Global program each day begins with morning welcome on the rug, where students sing, play instruments and welcome each other to school. Throughout the day students are engaged in hands-on learning in subjects like math, science, and social studies and of course have the opportunity for free play both in the classroom and outside on the playground (each classroom has at least 2 outside play times). In the Elementary school, all students start their day in homeroom where they are welcomed by their teacher. Then, as the day progresses students move from class to class for each subject, like the way a high school operates. We find that this model gives students the opportunity to take responsibility for their time and their learning tools, a valuable lesson!
◇How long does it take for a student to adapt? How long until most are “fluent?”
Our teachers are very loving, nurturing and take time to connect with each student with the goal that each child feels welcome and at ease immediately. We also schedule ‘welcome meetings’ with each student so that students meet their teacher and see their classroom before they come for their first day. How quickly students attain fluency depends on each child and more specifically, their schedule. Students who spend more time at school reach a level of fluency more quickly. However, generally by JuniorK graduation, all students are speaking, understanding, and reading at an age-appropriate level of fluency. And, upon graduation from grade 5 students are generally fully fluent in Spanish, and proficient in Mandarin Chinese.
◇Tell us a little bit about the teaching staff.
SELA teachers are passionate, driven life-long learners devoted to helping each student succeed in a 100% immersive environment. Our teachers are all native Spanish, English, or Mandarin speakers and hold, at a minimum, a Bachelor’s degree in the field of Education. Each is also certified in first aid, CPR, and allergy management.
SELA also has a full and highly-credentialed Administrative team, all of which share the goal of enriching the experience of each of our families. The Administrative team includes a Director of Elementary Education, Director of Early Childhood Education, a dedicated curriculum professional, and an on-site school nurse.
◇ Is SELA involved in anything else within this community?
SELA is proud to support our local communities – both Hingham and surrounding towns! Recently, we held a crazy sock day where all students wore their craziest socks and brought in a new pair to donate to Father Bill’s and MainSpring. Students were so proud to donate 250 pairs of socks! We are also proud supporters of the Hingham Newcomers Club and the Hingham Women’s Club and always look forward to supporting July 4th Festivities in Hingham!
◇ What is something our readers would be surprised to know about SELA?
SELA is celebrating it’s 15-year anniversary this year! Since 2004, we have grown from an after-school enrichment program to a private school with close to 200 students, from Hingham and 13 other surrounding towns!